By Justin Amler
How can anyone deny that the life of an American Jew today is not the same as an Israeli Jew? And not just American by the way, many countries in the Diaspora.
The reality is that Israelis serve on the frontline of the Jewish world. They understand what it’s like to run to bomb shelters and consequently they understand the need to serve in the army and defend their small state. Surrounded by enemies who have dreams of the destruction of your country is something many in the Diaspora can’t quite grasp. This is a concept that is foreign to any American, Australian, New Zealander and many others. No one calls for the destruction of those countries, as they do for Israel.
Israel faces issues that quite frankly, those of us in the diaspora, can never quite understand unless we live there and experience it too.
That’s why I have always felt that Jews outside Israel do not have the right to DICTATE to Israel what they should or shouldn’t do, including the Kotel issue which I know many Reform and Conservative Jews get upset about. Discuss yes, express displeasure if you want, but threaten support — no way!
Throughout history, there has always been a link between diaspora Jewry and the Land of Israel. There’s been a symbiosis of sorts. During our long exile, it was Diaspora Jewry that kept the concept of Israel alive. Jews never gave up the longing to return to Israel and never turned their back on Jerusalem.
There were exceptions of course. The early Jewish Reform movements in the 1800s were Jewish in name only, but they gave up everything about being Jewish, including not practicing circumcision, dropping the Hebrew language for prayer, renouncing the restoration of Israel for Jews officially adopting Germany as the new Zion, changing Shabbat to Sunday and even replacing the Bar Mitzvah celebration with a “confirmation” ceremony instead! If movements like that had become the mainstream, quite frankly, the Jews would have died out ages ago.
But now all this time later, the pendulum has switched. Rather than diaspora Jewry keeping Israel alive, it is Israel keeping world Jewry alive. Because the reality is that overall diaspora Jewry is shrinking. And with rates of anti-Semitism at levels last seen in the 1930s and with assimilation rates at record highs including intermarriage, Israel remains the beating heart of the Jewish people.
Jews are a family and we’re all part of it, no matter where we live or how religious we are. We face different issues in different places, yet we face it all because we are Jews. I think it’s terrible the anti-Semitism that American college students have to go through. I truly feel for my French brothers and sisters who live with the very real threat of terrorist attacks and I shudder at the thought of what British Jews will face should an anti-Semite like Corbyn get into power.
But I also beam with pride at how Israeli Jews lead the way in defence of all of us. I take such pleasure in knowing that we have our own country in which Jews don’t have to hide their identity to ‘fit’ into the rest of the community. This is not about who is in power, but about the country itself.
I appreciate and respect Israel very much, because without it, we are all well aware of the disastrous consequences
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based columnist who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is a regular contributor to international publications, including the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Justin is also a valued Israel Forever writer, thoughtfully discussing his connection to the Jewish state. You can reach Justin on Twitter, Facebook & Google+.